So­cial me­dia cre­at­ing epi­demic of child men­tal health is­sues – NHS boss

Daily Mail - - News - By So­phie Bor­land Health Ed­i­tor

THE NHS must not be left to ‘pick up the pieces’ from ir­re­spon­si­ble so­cial me­dia firms, its chief ex­ec­u­tive has warned.

Simon Stevens warned of an ‘epi­demic’ of men­tal health prob­lems amongst young peo­ple trig­gered by ‘ac­tors’ such as Face­book and In­sta­gram.

He called for ‘search­ing ques­tions’ to be asked of so­cial me­dia firms and tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies about the im­pact they were hav­ing on child­hood.

A fifth of ado­les­cents ex­pe­ri­ence a men­tal health prob­lem in any given year and ex­perts say the preva­lence is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon.

Ear­lier this week a coali­tion of char­i­ties called for so­cial me­dia firms to have a ‘duty of care’ – en­shrined by law – to pro­tect chil­dren from po­ten­tial men­tal health con­di­tions.

They said the sites were re­spon­si­ble for in­creases in on­line bul­ly­ing, in­ter­net ad­dic­tion and self-harm amongst chil­dren which were very of­ten un­de­tected by par­ents.

Mr Stevens warned that chil­dren of to­day were fac­ing a ‘dou­ble epi­demic’ of obe­sity and men­tal health con­di­tions, caused by the ‘stresses and strains of ado­les­cence.’

Ad­dress­ing the NHS Con­fed­er­a­tion con­fer­ence in Manch­ester, he high­lighted the key pri­or­i­ties for the NHS over the next few years in­clud­ing can­cer and chil­dren’s men­tal health.

He said: ‘The con­ver­sa­tion about young peo­ple’s men­tal health has got to be wider than just what the NHS can do.

‘Cer­tainly it’s about schools but we also have to ask some pretty search­ing ques­tions about the role of tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, so­cial me­dia and the im­pact that is hav­ing on child­hood.

‘This can­not be a con­ver­sa­tion left to the Na­tional Health Ser­vice to pick up the pieces for an epi­demic of men­tal health chal­lenge for our young peo­ple in­duced by many other ac­tors across our econ­omy.’

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